Pay Nick Cage’s Taxes — Please

Syfy ran multiple showings of a movie from 2006 last weekend; The Wicker Man. After seeing part of it, I am putting out a plea to America. Can we please have a bake sale, or a car-wash, or something, to help Nicholas Cage get out of his tax difficulties?  Because, really, he has got to stop doing stuff like this.

(Two warnings:  I didn’t watch the entire movie, so there may be some brilliance in the middle. And, spoilers abound.)

A Sticky Wicket

The original Wicker Man, back in 1973, was… well, original. It was true horror. The 1973 version is set in Scotland, and puts a devout Christian believer up against an ancient pagan cult.  The effect of a true-believer who isn’t saved by the “true religion” made the seventies version of this movie unsettling, disturbing and scary.

The remake is faithful to the original except for changing the location, changing the gender of the cult leader and eliminating the element of religious belief for the Nick Cage character. Other than that, it’s almost exactly the same.

Our story begins… here

Nick plays Edward Milus, who is some kind of cop or highway patrolman in the desert somewhere. I’m going to saw Arizona, because I don’t know. Early in the movie, Milus fails to save a cute little blond girl and her mother from dying in a fiery car crash. There’s an implication that if it weren’t for the bratty behavior of the little girl, who throws her doll out the window (Milus goes to fetch it) Milus would have been killed in the same crash. That’s never developed though. After the crash, on leave and recovering, popping pills like a fiend, Milus gets a letter from his former fiancé Willow, who says her daughter has disappeared and no one will help her. Willow lives in a place called Summersisle (Summer’s Isle), in Puget Sound.

Summersisle is privately owned and sells honey. Apparently that’s the only source of income to the island, although there are some pretty gorgeous homes for a simple organic farming operation. Milus tries to get to the island, (riding on a ferry that is a type the Washington State Department of Transportation doesn’t use in the Sound) only to discover that you can’t get there from anywhere. He finally bribes an old man with a float plane who delivers supplies –Edward Woodward, in a cameo, since he played the policeman in the original – and barges onto Summersisle. Two mean-teacher old women meet him and are unwelcoming. A parade of pregnant women waddle past him, smiling coyly. The few men seem subservient and kind of dim, but not as dim as Milus. Milus apparently doesn’t quite grasp the concept of “jurisdiction” as he flashes his Arizona badge around right and left claiming that his search for a little girl is “a police matter.”

Milus finds Willow, who is virtually incomprehensible. I mean the character, not the actress. She says Rowan, her daughter, is missing, even though other women say various things; that there never was a Rowan, that Rowan is fine, or that Rowan is dead. An hour in, Willow drops the Reveal – Rowan is Milus’s daughter! What a shocking revelation that none of us saw coming since the point where Milus opened Willow’s letter back in Arizona!

There’s no way off the island. There is no cell reception on the island. (Most of the subservient men hang out at “the tavern,” but since there’s no satellite reception, this is not paradise for them because they can’t watch sports.) Milus peddles around on a stolen bike, jerking and twitching, flashing his useless badge, gulping useless pills, asking useless questions and finding carefully planted clues. The harvest last year was bad. There is a ritual festival that involves a pretty little blond girl. There’s a book called The Ancient Rituals. Lots of things are burned. Milus flashes back to the fiery car. The scenery is pretty.

Who’s In Charge Here?

Eventually he has a conversation with Sister Summerisle, matriarch of the island, played by Ellen Burstyn, looking just great. I know Nick owes about $14 million and therefore will do anything that offers a paycheck. What do they have on Burstyn? Milus rags on her about how men are called “drones” and are subservient and Sister Summerisle smiles faux-sweetly and mouths all the usual platitudes about how they honor and respect their men, but they have their place in the world and it’s a specific place. (Get it? It’s social commentary! How funny!) Milus wanders down to the beehives, gets stung, and now we find out that he’s allergic and carries an epi-pen. Why didn’t we know this? Why didn’t Milus think about this problem before coming to Summersisle? Not that is matters –in the final cut of this movie, any significance this life-threatening allergy had is removed.

Rule of Four

Now, we reach the part of the movie where Cage, as Milus, says everything four times. He’s yelling at Willow about Rowan’s doll, which he found. It’s burned. “How did it get burned?” he yells. “How did it get burned? How did it get burned? How did it get burned?”

Later he hijacks Sister Rose’s bicycle, threatening her impotently with his gun. “Get off the bike! Get off the bike! Get off the bike! Get off the bike!”

Later still he crashes through Sister Summerisle’s beautiful craftsman mansion, hurling open doors and finding strange things, just not the sister. “Sister Summersisle! Sister Summersisle! Sister Summersisle! Sister Summersisle!”

Nick, I speak from the heart when I say this to your character, “Milus, shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”

It’s Unbearable

Having come to the inescapable conclusion that the cult intends to sacrifice his little girl, Milus knocks out a woman and steals her bear costume—yes, that’s right, her bear costume – and, in disguise, joins the parade to the lovely meadow where the sacrifice is held. It’s like a Renn Faire gone wrong; all the woman have pretty floaty dresses and antique-lookin’ masks and nobody thinks anything about the guy in a bear costume galumphing along with them. He finds Rowan tied to a structure. He frees her and they run into the woods. His cell phone rings! He answers it while running and yells, “Tom, Tom, help me!” Tom’s a guy back in Arizona.  Spoiler alert: Tom’s not going to help him.

Rowan leads him through the woods… back to the meadow where all the women stand waiting. Because… surprise! Rowan isn’t the sacrifice! Milus is! Rowan and Willow were in on it! The whole time! Sorry to spoil it for you.

Lost in Translation

There is no movie so horrid that Syfy can’t make it worse by bad editing for commercials, and Wicker Man is no exception. Midway through the movie, Milus confronts Sister Rose and a group of students (girls) in the rustic little one room school-house. Outside, Sister Rose tells him that Rowan died. The dialogue goes like this:

Milus:  How did she die?

Sister Rose:  She burned to death. (Walks past Milus)

Milus: What did you say?

Sister Rose: (Turns at door) What I meant to say.

Okay, so… huh? What’s that about? Well, when you check Wikipedia, you find out that the uncut scene reads more like this:

Milus:  How did she die?

Sister Rose:  She’ll burn to death.

Milus:  What?

Sister Rose:  She burned to death. (Walks past Milus.)

Milus:  What did you say?

Sister Rose: (Turns at door) What I meant to say.

A clue! A threat! Suspense! Syfy can’t leave any of that in place, so the ominous, “She’ll burn to death” line gets cut. I am not good at math, but even I can see that if they shaved one iteration off of each of Cage’s Group of Four incantations, they could have left the scary line in.

Spoiler Alert

Milus dies. They sacrifice him. It’s not all a dream.


The scariest thing about Wicker Man isn’t in Wicker Man. It’s that this director, Neil Labute, adapted one of my favorite books, Possession, into a movie. I will never be able to watch it. I can’t see that story and those wonderful characters tortured in the hands of this director.

Last week I saw two good movies, and one of them, Cabin in the Woods, was horror. In that movie, what characters did mattered. Actions carried through, advanced the plot or revealed character. If someone had popped pills in Cabin, there would have been a reason. Cabin, like Wicker Man, is a movie about the horror of sacrifice. In Cabin, the sacrifice matters. In Wicker Man, it doesn’t. Neil Labute, who directed this monstrosity, should watch Cabin in the Woods. He might learn something.

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2 Responses to Pay Nick Cage’s Taxes — Please

  1. Chad Hull says:

    Few things are as painful as watching Nick Cage. You must have a very high pain tolerance.

  2. Marion says:

    He was pretty bad, but I’m not sure he was the worst thing. I think that might have been the writing.

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